Economic Diversification

Writing New Stories for Women

Gladys Quispe migrated from the mountains to the Ecuadorian Amazon at the age of 9, where she settled with her family on a cocoa farm and began to make a new story in Zamora Chinchipe. Today she is a thriving local entrepreneur cultivating prized Amazonian cocoa used in high-quality chocolate products.

As part of her business journey, Gladys won first place in the SOY EMPRENDEDORA (I Am an Entrepreneur) program, a business incubator making a positive impact on the lives of women living in Zamora Chinchipe province in Ecuador.  

Developed by the Lundin Foundation and Lundin Gold in 2021, the program addresses women’s specific needs and challenges as entrepreneurs and leaders within their communities.  

“It seems to me that culturally we women believe that we are only here to assist a family, a home and the upbringing of our children — but we also have many capacities and a lot of creativity,” explains Gladys.

“It is important to support the entrepreneurial spirit of women, and I am really very grateful to the Foundation and Lundin Gold for recognizing that.” 

The Lundin Foundation had met with three women in Zamora Chinchipe to discuss program opportunities that would help to advance women in the community. During that meeting, a structure was created to design a business incubator aimed at elevating women entrepreneurs — ultimately leading to the launch of SOY EMPRENDEDORA.  

The incubator encouraged women-led enterprises to apply in two categories: “business ideas” or “business in progress.” In addition to the Foundation and Lundin Gold’s support, multiple private and government stakeholders offered further resources and assistance for the program; Fundación Telefónica, WIM-Ecuador, the Canadian Embassy, Banco Pichincha, Fundación CRISFE, AEI (Alliance for Entrepreneurship and Innovation). Each contribution supported different aspects of business training, digital marketing, legal support, financial training, and even seed capital (as in the case of Banco Pichincha).   

Upon the first call for applications, 158 women-led enterprises responded. From this applicant pool, 30 were shortlisted and received 77 hours of training in management skills and women’s leadership, personalized coaching in self-knowledge and female empowerment. This group of 30 women has now formed a “women’s network” to continue to grow personally and professionally. This network is supported by Lundin Gold, the Foundation and its allies.